As told by Nishtha Manchanda
to Eeshita Kapadiya

In this interview, Nishtha looks through a collection of 40 saris, her mum’s wedding dupatta, some jewelry and many tender memories of her late-grandmother and late-mum.

She speaks of her grandmother's resilience during the Partition, her mum's selfless resolve, and the profound impact they’ve had on her life.

Do you remember what objects your grandmother brought with her during the partition?

I lost her at a very young age, but I had always seen her wearing olive color saris and some bangles. Literally nothing else. Just these two objects. They had to start from scratch in India. My grandma started stitching clothes for the neighborhood and started making money from that. So basically, she could bring very few objects during the partition.

What about your mum? Did she start a new collection of her own?

She brought a lot of dowry at her wedding. A lot of those were her collectibles. I don't think she specifically built anything for herself. I don't know, mums are selfless like that. So I think from day one, since I was born she has started thinking of collecting for me and collecting for my brother's future wife too. So I think she was just collecting for us. Not for herself.

(Above: A picture of Nishtha’s late-mum, Poonam Manchanda.)

Can you tell me a little bit more about your mother and what of her belongings you’ve kept?

My mum would show me whatever she'd buy growing up. I only had her in my life till the age of 13. And she was the kind of person who will treat you equally even as a child. She will talk to you, reason with you. And I remember her showing me a lot of jewelry saying “this is for you, you'll decide if you want to keep this for yourself or want to give it to your brother's wife”. Then I think jewelry is the only thing that she ever showed me. But once she passed away there were a lot of things.

When I moved out of my parent’s house I could take only a few things with me. I didn't know when I would ever get to see them or also just to keep her with me. I think she has a very strong presence in my life even till now.

I picked up 40 of 86 silk saris. There are these really gorgeous silk saris and I made sure I took 40 of them - I lug them along everywhere I go. It's a bag in itself. I took her ivory beads necklace. I took her jewelry that she was wearing the last time I saw her alive. I took her “Shringar” box which she wasn't using after my father passed away.

I also found this wallet that she and I had collected together. Her wedding bangle, the only bangle that was left, her anklet, the greeting cards that I had written to her over the course of years on her birthdays or Mother's Day. Her brother's letter to her when he was abroad. I took her wedding footwear. I also picked up a few of her clothes and very little jewelry. I actually don't have many photographs of us. So one of her photographs. I thought this was enough. And this keeps me close. There are days I show up in that jewelry. It makes me feel close to her.